I saw Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Bless its heart.
Cultural critique isn’t my wheelhouse but I am a fan of superhero movies. I don’t follow the comic books because I don’t like pictures. They get in the way of my imagination. Despite this, I am drawn to comics on the big screen where I am not bound by my form of reading. I also like Greek epic poetry and some soap operas. These things are probably related.
If you haven’t heard, the movie is bad. The experts have really good reasons why it is bad. I can only tell you that it is bad. I am usually pretty bright but I didn’t know what was happening in this movie over half the time. Why are we in Africa? Why is it just “Africa”? Why are we in the desert? How would Batman get a trench coat on over his Bat-suit? How is it night all the time? What year is that car? What year is this movie? Is it now or then or soon or all of the times at one time? WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?
There is dialogue but there may as well not be. It’s like the adults in Charlie Brown; lots of sound and no meaning.
Also, Alfred shouldn’t be sexy. It just feels wrong.
Despite these issues, there are a few good moments. First, you should know that Clark Kent has his shirt off twice in the movie. That’s good.
And, of course, there is Wonder Woman.
I am a 70s kid. I was blessed by a heavenly deity to have the real Wonder Woman in my childhood. There are only 129 polaroids of ashy-kneed, wild-haired toddler me in Wonder Woman underoos. I was real.
Somehow in a movie where every single thing that’s not Clark Kent without a shirt on is bad, Wonder Woman is terrific. I mean, the movie breathes when she is on the screen. When she isn’t, the movie just sort of gasps like an asthmatic in hot yoga. I can say that because I breathe loudly in hot yoga.
How could director Zach Snyder get everything so wrong in this movie but get Wonder Woman so right? That’s what I keep thinking about. A lot of credit has to go to sexism. Snyder isn’t overly interested in Wonder Woman. As a result of leaving her alone, Wonder Woman is the best character in this movie.
Writer Jamelle Bouie is really invested in this franchise. It’s been following his commentary about it on Twitter. Today he shared a link to a story about how Zach Snyder hates Superman. It’s a good essay. The main argument:
But there’s another element of grace inherent in Superman, and that is the grace of god. That’s reflected in his Kryptonian name, Kal-El, which uses the Hebrew suffix ‘el’ – meaning ‘god’ – and which was not appended by accident. Kal-El’s name not only aligns him with Judaism (it is translated by some as “Voice of God,” and is a pretty good example of why Superman is not a Christ figure) but with God himself. It isn’t that Superman is god, or a god, but that he represents the grace of god, the beauty and mercy we find in the best divine moments. But that beauty is missing from Superman in the Snyderverse, where he is a cold and distant being who hovers ever so slightly out of reach of people trapped by flood waters, or who allows himself to be worshipped by a crowd of cartoonish Mexicans. This marble statue has no love within him. He offers no comfort.
After two films I do not believe this is an accident. I believe that Zack Snyder is systematically destroying Superman not because he doesn’t understand the character but because he profoundly dislikes the character. One of the larger themes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the idea that every act of heroism is a catalyst for something terrible in the world, a point of view that is not only a) insane but b) inherently anti-Superman.
I mean, that’s good stuff.
I am not immersed enough in the narrative history of Superman to argue with what reads like a really sound critique. I was never into Superman. He is too precious for my taste. But, God’s grace is present in this film. It’s just not present in Superman. God’s grace is instead represented by Wonder Woman. What if, in Snyderverse, God is a Wonder Woman?
In one scene Wonder Woman reflects on walking away from mankind 100 years ago. Batman seems to think he is convincing her of mankind’s worth with some pithy speech that’s just bad like all the other pithy speeches in this movie, save one. Batman is talking about it but the entire film Wonder Woman been about it.
Wonder Woman is the only one who joins the fight against Luthor’s devil without any self-interested motivation. She is the only one at the battle royale without a mother’s life on the line or an ax to grind. She and she alone is selfless and devoted to saving man because she believes man to be worth saving.
Wonder Woman may be expressing disappointment in man as Batman drones on about fights and whatever else he drones on about. God also expressed disappointment in his creation. But Wonder Woman is THERE. Speechifying about man’s deservedness aside, Wonder Woman’s actions say she believes that we are redeemable.
Like the old testament judeo-christian God, Wonder Woman is fierce. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to read her as God’s grace. As a black feminist I always understand God’s love as fierce. Love is fierce and turbulent as often as it is still and peaceful. You have to have both. I believe that’s the love described in the Pentateuch.
Now, I’m no biblical scholar. I have a few vacation bible studies under my belt and two classes at Christian school where I took summer school. I think the Christ is supposed to have transformed the warrior characteristics of God’s grace. That seems to be what Superman is the allegory for here. Maybe in refusing Superman the Christ moment of humanity’s redemption somehow Snyder makes God’s grace a woman. It’s a wonder.